Title: Raveled Sleeve (With Some Ink)
Rating G really, with one bad word
Word Count 650
Raveled Sleeve (With Some Ink)
His eyes were gritty and dry. His skin was crazed with the need to sleep. Mr Bracegirdle had already seen him, on deck, yawning so wide, behind his hand, and said-- “Go and wash your face, Mr Cleveland.” Yawns were contagious on a ship, of course. One sleepy mid, (passed, but not advanced,) could infect the whole deck. Soon everyone would be yawning, realizing just how tired they were. That would not do at all.
It especially would not do when two divisions had gone ashore, and Mr Bowles with them. The watch-bill therefore, was all fucked up and there was more work, and less sleep for everyone. Still, better that than going ashore with the lobsters, as Hornblower and Kennedy had done. Kennedy, in particular had looked pale and miserable. Kennedy-- Archie, His oldest friend, if Christopher were honest. (And if you could not be honest in your own brain-case, where could you?)
He had wanted to take Archie by the arm and say-- well, say anything. It would have come out less than he felt, it always did. Affection was reduced, between them, to a jest, a threat, a punch on the arm.”Don't get yourself mislaid in France again, Kennedy,” he might have said. “Took us years to find you last time.” And Archie would have laughed. He would have made a reply both clever and obscene. He would have known Christopher's words for what they were. He would have felt the heart behind them.
But, in the end, there had been the usual scramble to get boats away, this time complicated by horses and landsmen, getting underfoot, (Equal in their ignorance of shipboard ways.) Kennedy and Hornblower had been busy themselves, getting everything and everyone loaded without injury, and nothing overlooked. There had been no time to speak. Just as well, maybe. Better so, maybe.
And so, now he had come to the end of the day, the long irritating sweaty day. The ship was almost silent, it made his ears ring. The lantern above him swung in loose arcs. The light cast odd shadows on the mess table. Christopher could yawn now, could rub his burning eyes. But the paper before him was only half full. He could see where yesterday his hand had wobbled. Yesterday he had made an ink blot. He had put ears on it, made it into a rabbit. Saphronia would not be fooled, of course. But he thought it might make her smile.
He stretched his legs beneath the table. End of the week he could send the letter off. She would take it, when it came, from the silver dish in her uncle's front hall. There was a bowl there, kept full of garden flowers. He could see, in his thoughts, her taking his letter, her sharp face, her smile, her hands smelling of earth from the garden. He could see the heave of her breath, knew how it would be to rest his hand just there, above her heart. She would push against him, soft as a dove. She would let him touch her. She let him do most things now, but not all.
He fidgeted slightly.. Better to save such thoughts for his hammock. They tortured him there, in the moments before sleep, no matter what he did. And now Jeoffrey Mittens had come aboard the table. He had a fascination with quills, paper, sand and ink. He got his face in the way, his whiskers in the wet ink. He was a menace. They had all learned to write with minimal movements of the pen, while straight-arming the cat a safe distance away. It gave their workings a shabby look, but the old men understood. Saphronia thought it comical.
His thoughts were wandering. Time for sleep. Watch would come before he was ready. It always did.